The Mystery Woman
When my research commenced into the life of Cecilia Richards nothing was known about her other than her date of birth and the fact that she was a daughter of Mark and Agnes Richards formerly North.
All that was known was that she was my grandfather Jacob's sister and that he often referred to her as either "CIS" or "SIS". The Palterton clan appeared not to have seen Aunt Cecilia and she was a mystery woman, hence the title of this chapter.
As my research has progressed she has become very much the opposite of a mystery woman and indeed a lot of information has been gathered and her chapter is still unfolding.
Nevertheless it has been hard work and has involved travelling hundreds of miles from home to such places as Leicester, Matlock, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Stafford and Warwick. It has proved costly not only because of the travelling but also it has been necessary to purchase documents from Superintendent Registrars.
Even now there is much more to discover about her but what has been rewarding in the research so far is the discovery that three of her children are still alive (1991)and there are more descendants. It has been a rewarding experience discovering hitherto unknown relatives from another branch of the family and meeting them, especially so when they have extended such a warm welcome.
I must not forget the late John James Chappell known as "Jack", the son of Agnes Chappell formerly Richards for his help in getting this piece of research off the ground. His mother Agnes and Cecilia were sisters and Jack had been taken several times to visit his Aunt Cecilia at her homes in Nuneaton. He knew his cousins by name.
Cecilia's story is one of mining folk and her whole life must have been surrounded by hardship as was the condition of most mining folk in the years that she lived.
Other research into Cecilia's mothers family namely the Harvey's has made it clear that the name Cecilia was a Harvey name and not a Richards name. The same can be said of her brothers and sister namely Eli, Jacob, Agnes, Tamar and Emanuel. All these names were Harvey names. The research to date has failed to discover any Richards names in the Mark and Agnes Richards family, other than Mathew Henry.
Furthermore Cecilia Hardy formerly Richards has used neither Richards nor Harvey names for her children with the exception of her youngest child whom she named Cecilia Iris, the name Cecilia being a Harvey name.
In my research several characters are given nick names which are peculiar only to this research and these persons will not have hitherto been known by these names. They have been given these names to distinguish them from other persons in the families with similar names.
James William Hardy the husband of Cecilia Hardy formerly Richards has been given the name "The Shoe Thrower" because of his demeanour whenever he was on night shift at the pit.
Clearly, there is a mystery surrounding Cecilia Richards. Most certainly her marriage certificate states she married James Ward and registered her first child as Ethel Ward and stated her name was Cecilia Ward. Within a couple of years she is named Hardy and registering her children as Hardy.
Whilst being involved in researching Cecilia, I have always had a suspicion could James Hardy be connected to my grandmother Fanny Hardy, who married Jacob Richards, brother of Cecilia? I wonder ..!
The 1881 census (Ref: RG11, piece 3130, folio 24, page 8.) reveals a James Hardy living with his grandparents James and Ann Hewson at Hinckley Road, Burbage.Leics. Could this be the future husband of Cecilia Richards ?
|Name||Status||M or S||Sex||Age|| Birth
|James Hewson||Head||Marr.||M||58||1823||Agricultural Lab.||Burbage, Leics.|
|Ann Hewson||Wife||Marr.||F||57||1824||Housewife||Burbage, Leics.|
|Bessy Hewson||Dau.||Single||F||22||1859|| Assistant
|James Hardy||Grandson||Single||M||8||1873||Scholar||Castle Gresley, Derbys.|
14 March 1882. Cecilia Richards was born at Norton Common, Norton, Staffordshire and her birth was registered by her father Mark Richards on the 24 April 1882. Her mother was Agnes Richards late North previously Jones formerly Harvey.
At the time of Cecilia's birth, her parents already had five children comprising of two children from her mothers previous marriages namely Tamar Jones and Emanuel North and three brothers from her parents marriage namely Eli, George and Jacob.
Subsequently Cecilia had another brother Mathew Henry and another sister namely Agnes. Her brother Mathew Henry was always to be known as "Harry". It looks as if Cecilia spent the first few years of her life in Norton Common with her parents.
In October 1885 her brother "Harry" was born in Norton Common and the following year (1886) her fathers name appears on the Electoral Rolls as being qualified to vote in Parliamentary, County and Parochial elections. Her parents did not own property but occupied property with a value of £5 per annum.
That same year (1886) her older half sister Tamar Jones was married on the 24 May and we conject that Cecilia now four years old would most likely have been a bridesmaid. At that time Cecilia was living with her parents at Norton East which was part of Norton Common, Staffordshire.
During these early years Cecilia would have most likely known and met her mothers relatives, the Harvey's, because some of them lived in the area at that time.
2 May 1887. Cecilia Richards, at the age of 5 years, may well have attended the baptism of her niece, Agnes Emma Jones the first born daughter of her half sister Tamar Jones and the latter's husband Edward Jones. This baptism was at Norton East Methodist Chapel, Norton Canes, Staffordshire.
I conject that Cecilia Richards at that time would most likely be a pupil at the Norton Canes National Infants School and if that was the case, then on the 22 June 1887, she, along with all the other pupils, were given a days holiday to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
The next time I have any information about Cecilia's family is in 1889, when the family were in Stoneyford, Derbyshire. On the 8 September 1889 there is a baby sister for Cecilia. This baby was named Agnes Richards and she and Cecilia were to remain close sisters until the latter's death in 1938. By this time Cecilia was seven years old, she would still be attending school but at present I do not know which school she attended whilst living in Stoneyford. It could have been Aldecar, Brinsley or Langley Mill.
The tiny hamlet of Stoneyford lies between Brinsley and Aldecar, Derbyshire and is beside the railway and the canal. In 1881, there were only thirty five dwellings in the hamlet and most of the residents were mining people. I conject that the population of the hamlet remained unchanged but the 1891 Census will reveal the number of inhabitants and dwellings.
The following year there were two maybe three important events in the family which most likely would have touched Cecilia. I say three because I am not absolutely certain when Cecilia, her parents and the remainder of the family moved back to Norton Common.
Most certainly by the 5 May 1890, Cecilia and her parents and family were living in Norton Common in a house owned by Eli Harvey, whom I believe was Cecilia's uncle, that is to say her mother's (Agnes) cousin. Nearby lived Cecilia's half brother Emanuel North and his wife of one month Mary Jane North formerly Dennis.
The marriage of Cecilia's half brother Emanuel was on the 7 April 1890 at Ogley Hey Parish Church, which is near Norton Common. Most certainly Cecilia would have attended the wedding and now being eight years old may well have been a bridesmaid.
Later that year Cecilia became an Aunt for the second time when her half sister Tamar Jones had a baby girl on the 25 July 1890. This baby was named Mabel Eveline Jones and was born in Norton Canes. I believe that Cecilia would have attended the baptism of her baby niece which was on the 14 August that same year at the Primitive Methodist Church in Norton Canes.
Cecilia continued to live with her parents in Norton Common in a house owned by Eli Harvey, although the Rate Books for 1891 indicate the family were living on High Street, Norton Canes. Cecilia's half brother Emanuel North and his wife lived on the same street in a house also owned by Eli Harvey so she would most likely see them daily.
1 April 1891. Again Cecilia became an aunt when Emanuel and Mary Jane had a baby boy whom they named Thomas North. By this time Cecilia was nine years old and already had two nieces and one nephew. This new baby Thomas North was not baptised until the following year. Cecilia continued to live with her parents at Norton Common.
The 1891 census was taken and we discover Cecilia Richards living with her parents, brothers and sister in a house on High Street, Norton Canes.
|Name||Status||M or S||Sex||Age|| Birth
|Mark Richards||Head||Marr.||M||46||1845||Coal Miner||Brinsley, Notts.|
|Agnes Richards||Wife||Marr.||F||45||1846||----||Lane Head, Staffs.|
|Eli Richards||Son||Unm.||M||17||1874||Coal Miner||Norton Canes, Staffs.|
|George Richards||Son||Unm.||M||14||1877||---||Worksop, Notts.|
|Jacob Richards||Son||Unm.||M||10||1881||Scholar||Radley Bridge, Lancs.|
|Cecelia Richards||Dau.||Unm.||F||9||1882||Scholar||Norton Canes, Staffs.|
|Henry Richards||Son||Unm.||M||5||1886||Scholar||Norton Canes, Staffs.|
|Agnes Richards||Dau.||Unm.||F||1||1890||----||Stoney Ford, Derbys.|
1892. Cecilia was ten years of age and I conject that she was a pupil at the Norton Canes National School having left the Infants school when she was seven years old. However in 1892, her brother Mathew Henry ("Harry") was attending the Norton Canes National Infants School because the said school Log Books reveal that:
13 May 1892. ....Mathew Richards will be 7 years old before May 1893, but on account of their backward condition, I wish to retain them in the Infants School another year. (Three other children are mentioned).
25 October 1892 ....Mrs Richards came down to say that Mathew was born on the 9 October 1886 and not on the 9 April as put down in the Admissions Register. (Actually Mathew Henry Richards was born on the 4 October 1885.)
29 May 1893 ....Owing to the delicate state of Thomas Gradwell and Mathew Richards health, their parents wish them to stay in the Infants school another year.
So Cecilia's mother has made a mistake when she tells her son "Harry's" Headmistress his date of birth and we know that "Harry" was neither very clever and that he was not in good health. Nevertheless he lived for many years thereafter.
23 July 1892. More good news when Cecilia became an aunt once more. Her half brother Emanuel North and wife Mary Jane announced the arrival of a baby boy whom they name John North.
5 August 1892. We conject that Cecilia would have attended the baptisms of her two nephews, Thomas and John North, which took place at Ogley Hey Parish Church. She was ten years old.
1893. The year brought bad news for Cecilia and her family when in June her nephew Thomas North died. The funeral was on the 30 June 1893 and the baby of two years of age was buried in the Churchyard at Ogley Hey. Her half brother Emanuel and his family were now residing on Lichfield Road, Ogley Hey and we conject possibly with Mary Jane's parents at their pub.
Meanwhile the Electoral Rolls reveal that Cecilia's father was living on High Street, Norton Canes. Consequently Cecilia would also be living at this address with her parents and family.
She continued to live at this address until at least 1897 but by May 1898 they had moved to the hamlet of Alvecote in the parish of Shuttington.
1898. An eventful year and we conject a happy one for Cecilia. On the three Sundays 15, 22 and 29 May the Banns of her marriage were called at the small Parish Church of Shuttington which is on the hill across the fields from her home in Alvecote.
29 May 1898. Cecilia Richards aged 17 years and a spinster married James Ward aged 22 years, a bachelor and a Miner. Both were of the hamlet of Alvecote and in fact from another source we have established that Cecilia and her family lived at number 22 in a long row of terraced houses (facing the main railway line) and I believe that James Ward "lodged" with them.
Although the date of her marriage is recorded as the 29 May 1898 in the Parish Register, the copy Registration certificate obtained from St. Catherine's Registry Office records the date as being the 30 May 1898. The respective fathers were recorded as Mark Richards and James Ward, both of whom were Miners.
Later that same year there was more good news for Cecilia when on the 1 August she witnessed and signed her name as Cecilia Ward at the wedding of her brother Eli Richards to Mary Charlesworth. I conject that not only did she witness this marriage but she was also a bridesmaid.
It is pertinent to point out that the GRO certificate issued to me shows the name Cecilia S Ward as a witness being present. However on my checking the original entry in the parish register, there is no mention of a second name "S" and George Charlesworth is shown a a man servant in the P.R. as opposed to a servant on the GRO certificate.
The discovery of this marriage certificate reveals fresh evidence and indeed reveals a True Mystery into the life story of Cecilia Richards (my Aunt Annie Saxton formerly Richards words ring loud and clear!)
The three surviving children in 1991 of Cecilia were completely taken aback by their mother's marriage to James Ward in 1898 at Shuttington Parish Church, Warwickshire. They had never heard mention of the hamlet of Alvecote.
Their father's name for sure was James William Hardy. They understood he was an orphan and was brought up in Burbage, Leicestershire and that he was in the choir there. Cecilia did mention to her children that she married when she was aged seventeen years but never mentioned the surname Ward. They say that their mother Cecilia told them their father James William Hardy lodged with her family prior to them getting married.
Winnifred, one of Cecilia's daughters, has told me that there was something to do with a name change but she does not know the true facts. This name change became apparent later when Cecilia had her children
There is evidence that Cecilia's parents were still living in Alvecote, Tamworth during 1898 and 1899, although I can neither prove it nor disprove it, I believe that Cecilia and her husband James Ward were also living in Alvecote and most likely with Cecilia's parents Mark and Agnes Richards.
23 October 1899. Cecilia's brother George married at the Registry Office in Tamworth. George Richards gave his address as Alvecote near Tamworth and clearly he had been living with his parents in that hamlet. Undoubtedly Cecilia would have attended the marriage of her brother, unless of course she was not able to do so by virtue of illness.
14 March 1900. Cecilia Ward formerly Richards gave birth to a baby girl whom she named Ethel Ward. The birth of this baby was registered by Cecilia on the 10 April 1900, when she stated that she was the mother and that the father was James Ward, a Coal Miner. Furthermore she stated that baby Ethel had been born at Donnisthorpe, Leicestershire which was the place of the family residence. It appears that Cecilia signed her name when registering this birth.
31 March 1901. The census states the family were living in New Radford, Nottingham. The actual address is not clear but looks like 4, Mane Yard. It was at one end of Denman Street and next to 111, Alfreton Road.
Cecilia Hardy, wife, aged 20 years, born Norton Canes, Staffordshire, was living with her husband James Hardy, Head, aged 25 years, a coal miner underground ( coal hewer) born Church Gresley. Their daughter Ethel Hardy aged 1 year, born Donnisthorpe was living with them.
This is a surprise! This is the very area where Edward Richards started his "dynasty" some eighty years earlier. Most certainly his Richards descendants were still living in this small area in 1901. I wonder if Cecilia would have known they were from the same Richards line.
Edward Richards referred to here was the brother of Mathew Richards who in turn was Cecilia's paternal grandfather. Edward Richards story has been researched in depth, but has not yet (2003) been uploaded.
19 February 1902. The family were on the move again and on this date, Cecilia gave birth to a baby boy in Palterton, Derbyshire, whom she named James William Hardy. She stated she was the mother, her name was Cecilia Hardy formerly Richards and the boys father was James Hardy, a coal miner. The family residence was Palterton.
This birth certificate details presents another mystery. In April 1900, the family were known as Ward and less than two years later known as Hardy!
10 February 1904. The family remained in Palterton and on this date another baby for Cecilia Hardy and her husband James Hardy. This time, a baby girl whom they name Ethel May. She told the registrar she was the mother and the father was James Hardy, a coal miner.
It is odd that in the space of four years, Cecilia has two daughters, one of whom she names Ethel Ward, b. 14 March 1900 and the second Ethel May Hardy b. 10 February 1904.
Many years later, when Elsie May Hardy was an adult, she obtained her birth certificate and was surprised to discover, she had been registered as Ethel May, whereas she had always been called Elsie!
8 April 1906. Cecilia and her family moved again, this time the short distance to Bolsover, where on this date, another baby, this time a boy for Cecilia and her husband. They named the baby Cyril Hardy. When she registered the birth, she stated she was the mother and was named Cecilia Hardy formerly Richards and the baby was born at the family home on High Street, Bolsover. The father was James Hardy, a coal miner. The birth was registered on the 25 May 1906 at Bolsover, hence they were still living there at that time.
The family could not have remained too long in Bolsover, because on the 17 August 1908, there was another baby boy for Cecilia Hardy, whom they named Wilfred Hermann Hardy. By this time the family had moved and were living at 220, Tuttle Hill, Nuneaton, which is where Cecilia stated her new baby was born. Again she told the registrar her name was Cecilia Hardy formerly Richards and the father was James Hardy, a coal miner.
The Electoral Rolls for Nuneaton Division dated 31 December 1908 to 1 January 1910, reveal James Hardy residing at 308, Tuttle Hill, Nuneaton. remained on these Rolls at this address until 1912, when he is stated to be residing at 72, Midland Road, Nuneaton.
In actual fact, the name on the Electoral Rolls for 1911 and 1912 is James Hartop, but this is clearly an error and should read James Hardy.
The 1911 census reveals the family ere living in a 5 roomed house at number 27 Midland Road, Nuneaton and that Cecilia Hardy completed the document. She stated she and her husband had been married for 13 years and they had 5 children, all of whom were still alive.
|Name||Status||M or S||Sex||Age|| Birth
|James Hardy||Head||Marr.||M||39||1872||Miner Getter below ground||Castle Gresley, Leics.|
|Cecilia Hardy||Wife||Marr.||F||29||1882||--||Norton Canes|
|Ethel Hardy||Dau.||S||F||11||1900||School||Donisthorpe, Leics.|
|James W Hardy||Son||S||M||9||1902||School||Nottingham, Notts.|
|Elsie M Hardy||Dau.||S||F||7||1904||School||Palterton, Notts.|
|Cyril Hardy||Son||S||M||5||1906||School||Bolsover, Derbys.||Wilfred E Hardy||Son||S||M||2||1909||School||Nuneaton, Warwickshire|
|George Kitchener||Boarder||Marr. 12 yrs.||M||32||1879||Cobbler||Leicester|
2 February 1912. Another baby boy for Cecilia, whom she named Clarence Hardy. On the 18 March 1912 when
she registered the birth, she stated she was the mother and her baby had been born at 72 Midland Road, Nuneaton. The father
was James Hardy, a coal miner.
At least three more children were born to Cecilia and James Hardy, whilst they
were living at this address. They were :
There may have been other children who died at birth or Cecilia may have miscarried, but these children are the only ones that my research has discovered.
The family were to remain at this address until about 1927, when neither Cecilia nor James Hardy appear on the Electoral Rolls, nor does the address. Hence, we conclude it is empty.
1928. They next appear on the Electoral Rolls, when they are stated to be living at 7 Granby Road, Stockingford, Nuneaton. They remain at this address for a few years until 1933, when James Hardy appears at 38 Clifton Road, Nuneaton living in the same house as his daughter Ethel (May) who by this time is married to George Walker. Cecilia Hardy does not appear on this Roll.
1929. The person preparing the Electoral Roll, clearly made a mistake because he recorded James and Cecilia Harding not Hardy living at 7, Granby Road, Stockingford.
1934. However on this years Electoral Roll, both Cecilia and James Hardy appear and are residing at the Foundry House, Queens Road, Nuneaton, which is near to the Nags Head Inn, Manor Court/Park area.
Cecilia and James Hardy were to remain at this address until 22 November 1938, when Cecilia died.
24 November 1938. Cecilia's death was reported to the registrar by her daughter Ethel (May) Walker. She stated her 56 year old mother Cecilia Hardy, the wife of James William Hardy, a collier, died on the 22 November 1938 at Mount Street Passage, Nuneaton. The cause of death was stated to be (1) Cerebral Embolus. (2) Valvular heart disease and Myocarditis.
It appears as if James (William) Hardy moved to live with his daughter Winnifred Mary Eales formerly Hardy, because on the 1946 Electoral Roll, he is shown to be living with them at 6, Granby Road, Stockingford. He had lived across the road at number 7 for a few years (1928 to 1932).
I traced his death and the death certificate records: 5 or 6 January 1950. James William HARDY, aged 76 years of 247 Plough Lane, Nuneaton the address of Elsie – death certificate. Senility and something else I cannot read also cannot read name of the informant. Reported 11 January 1950.
I have not yet postively discovered a birth for the correct James William Hardy
However, I have traced a birth of a James William Hardy as 5 April 1875 at Coalville, Whitick, Leicester. His parents were Thomas Hardy a brick maker and Ann Hardy formerly Wyatt. I am satisfied this is the wrong man, but I suspect he may turn out to be part of my grandmother Fanny Richards formerly Hardy family!
1991. For more background information, I interviewed both Winifred Mary Hardy and Dorothy Angela Hardy, these being their maiden names. Their parents are James William Hardy and his wife Cecilia formerly Richards.
They had no knowledge of Gordon Hardy.
James William Hardy was a lodger at grandmother Agnes Richards home and that is how he met their mother Cecilia Richards. They took him in as a lodger because he had moved that way. (possibly to Alvecote).
Ethel Ward / Hardy became Ethel Walker and then Ethel Chapman when she married Albert Chapman, possibly born Ashby de la Zouch and died aged 82,83 or 84. She was cremated at Nuneaton Crematorium and her youngest brother Gordon Hardy died within a week of Ethel. The year was possibly 1983/84.
Ethel Ward / Hardy always said her father James William Hardy was brought up at Burbage as an orphan and that he sang in the Burbage choir.
James William Hardy worked until he was 70. He liked his pint of beer and his pipe of tobacco. He had several allotments at the same time and used to grow his own vegetables and flowers. He sold the surplus. He won many prizes for his produce. He used to mend all the family shoes and mostly cursed a lot when so doing.
Both he and his wife Cecilia Hardy formerly Richards liked a drink of beer and they used to drink out of stone jam jars. She would wait until her husband had gone to work and she would ask the children Winnie, Dolly (Dorothy) and Iris to find the bottle in the tub where she had hidden it. Her husband walked to work to save money but she would spend it on her beer.
Cecilia was sharp of tongue and did not allow the children to speak at the table. Once she burnt her daughter Winnie's dress because she stayed out late one evening after 9 p.m. She was a character. She would curse and swear. She was "clearly a Richards" - my words!
She used Pearce's Pawn Shop which was nearby. She would have the clothes taken in on a Monday and have them out on a Friday. A local lady named Mrs Ellsworth used to charge one penny for taking them to the pawn shop.
Cecilia was always pregnant and always in need. The local Church workers used to help her. It is understandable with several young children and low wages that she and her husband were poor. They were like so many people, times were hard.
James William Hardy was in the 1914-1918 war. Regiment unknown. I have not researched him in depth!
During the 1926 pit strike James William Hardy Snr.. was on strike. At that time it is believed that he worked at Dry Bread Pit and he used to walk there. After that he worked at the Griff Clara Pit and latterly he worked at Kearsley Pit near Coventry.
James William Hardy Snr. was a "Red Flag Man." He used Stockingford Labour Club.
James William Hardy and his wife Cecilia used to sing lovely together. Often when on night shift they would fall out but they always made it up before going to work.
On night shift he was nasty tempered and would throw shoes around so it was always known as the "shoe throwing shift" hence our nickname for him "The Shoe Thrower"
At one time, the family lived in a flat in the centre of Nuneaton, which in 1991 was the Alliance & Leicester B.S.. A black and white timbered building bottom of Abbey Street opposite Heron Way. You had to go up a lot of steps.
At another time, they lived in Earles Road, a lovely big house, too big for the Hardy's. Trees on either side of the road. The rent was too high and when mother Cecilia had to go in hospital, no rent was paid so had to get out. They went to Edwards Street, possibly 54, the longest street in Nuneaton but did not stay there long.
Cyril Hardy, the son came on leave from the Army. He "pinched" (stole) a bike and rode over to Caldecote to Baxters's farm where Cecilia was working to pay the rent. The Bailey's were the landlords of the Hardy house and the rent was 16 shillings per week.
Cyril gave Mr. Baxter a good hiding for working his mother too hard and he took his mother home on the bike. Cecilia would be potato picking and all sorts of jobs to help out. Baxters owned the house in Granby Road.
5 February 1991. Shortly, prior to his death, I interviewed John James "Jack" Chappell, the son of Agnes Chappell formerly Richards, at his home address in Bolsover.
He could remember quite well his Aunt "Cicily. She was poor and often her children had no shoes when he visited them.
The best man at his wedding to Ivy Breedon on 26 December 1935 was James Hardy. Jnr., the eldest son of his aunt "Cicily" Hardy. He says they lived at Stockingford which is just outside of Nuneaton. However, James Hardy did not sign the register as a witness to the marriage!
Dorothy Angela "Dolly" Hardy went to Abbey Street Methodist Chapel.
Winifred Mary "Winnie" Hardy went to St. Mary's Church.
Betty went to Chapels.
Ethel Hardy knew that there was a male Hardy buried at Whitwick.
Finally, there is more to Cecilia's story but this is as far as I have researched. At the outset, she was a "mystery Richards", but now her life has been researched, that title is no longer applicable!
Cecilia Richards (1882 to 1938)
Created 2 December 2001
Last updated: 25 February 2013